Students with disabilities and their families often face a similar issue: how to navigate life after high school.
This issue is one Melissa Callahan, Shelly Fordgrotkopt, and Michelle Pittman aim to answer. They work with the Transition School to Work (TSW) grant that provides pre-employment transition services to students with disabilities.
“This grant specifically focuses on students with disabilities, and we know that the adult world and navigating life are hard for anybody,” Pittman said. “These kinds of sessions are really key in helping individuals really figure out themselves and overcome their barriers.”
The team teaches skills in job exploration, workplace readiness, and self-advocacy. They host Transition Tuesdays to educate and provide valuable resources to families and staff for students preparing for life after high school, and a Transition Fair that brings together their community partners as a “one-stop shop” for resources.
“Being a resource is so important because their students are going to leave a system that’s taken care of them for a really long time,” Fordgrotkopt said. “We really see partnering with community resources as filling a gap for parents.”
Their dedication to their students and years of hard work received recognition from a well-known partner.
Knoxville’s disABILITY Resource Center awarded them the 2023 Spirit of ADA Community Service Provider Award.
“We’re so honored. It’s really nice to be recognized by your peers in the community,” Fordgrotkopt said. “I think that just makes us feel really appreciated.”
The recognition only serves as encouragement to do more for their students.
Callahan stated: “The affirmation and just knowing how important the resources are for the students and the parents and the collaboration just pushes us to continue to offer more of that to parents and students. It’s such an important piece of what we do.”
To learn more about the TSW grant or Transition Tuesdays, find community resources, and see upcoming events, visit knoxschools.org/specialeducation.